Legislation and government actions that attempt to dictate "moral and proper" behavior

Prohibitionism is a legal philosophy and political theory which holds that citizens will abstain from actions if the actions are typed as unlawful (i.e. prohibited) and the prohibitions are enforced by law enforcement. This philosophy has been the basis for many acts of statutory law throughout history, most notably when a large group of a given population disapproves of or feels threatened by an activity in which a smaller group of that population engages, and seeks to render that activity legally prohibited. Acts of prohibition have included prohibitions on types of clothing (and prohibitions on lack of clothing), prohibitions on gambling and exotic dancing, the prohibition of drugs (for example, alcohol prohibition and cannabis prohibition, prohibitions on tobacco smoking and gun prohibition.

  • Drugs, War on - Legislation and enforcement actions against substances that are deemed to be addictive or otherwise dangerous
  • Prohibition - Laws forbidding the production, sale, transportation or consumption of alcoholic beverages


America's Most Persecuted Minority, by Murray Rothbard, The Rothbard-Rockwell Report, Aug 1994
Tells the history of post-millennial evangelical pietists (PMEP) or neo-Puritans and their crusades to ban pleasures such as liquor and smoking
"The major problem with the Puritans is not so much that they were a dour lot, but that they were believers in the dangerous Christian heresy of "post-millennialism" ... Since the Kingdom is by definition a perfect society free of sin, this means that it is the theological duty of believers to establish a sin-free society. But establishing a sin-free society, of course, means taking stern measures to get rid of sinners, which is where the rub comes in."
California's Blow Against Property Rights, by Sheldon Richman, Dec 1997
Discusses the concepts of private property and property rights in view of California's law forbidding smoking in bars, beginning in January 1998
"But what does freedom have to do with smoking? some people will ask. Smoking is risky to health, they will say, and not just to the health of the smoker, but to others as well. Surely that is grounds for prohibition. ... The organized antismokers apparently believe that they have a right to smoke-free air wherever they are. ... But they have no right to tell property owners that they may not smoke or permit others to smoke on the premises. ... The attempt to deny smokers bars in which they can smoke brings to mind H. L. Mencken's definition of Puritanism: the haunting fear that somewhere someone is happy."
Related Topics: California, Property Rights
I Love Loosies and the People Who Sell Them, by Sheldon Richman, 10 Dec 2014
Explains how New York cigarette taxes contributed to the police crack down that led to the Eric Garner confrontation (and subsequent death)
"But something significant can be done in the meantime: halt police confrontations with nonviolent persons suspected of committing victimless so-called crimes. These are acts that in themselves violate no one's rights, such as selling or possessing drugs and guns, taking bets, and participating in other prohibited but peaceful, consensual activities."
Related Topic: Taxation
Kennedy's Libertarian Revolution: Lawrence's reach, by Randy Barnett, National Review Online, 10 Jul 2003
Comments on the Supreme Court decision in Lawrence v. Texas invalidating sodomy laws and in particular on Justice Anthony Kennedy's majority opinion
"At the end of the 19th century, as the so-called 'Progressive' movement grew, ... morals legislation became much more pervasive, though often falling under the rubric of 'public health' — what historian Ronald Hamowy has called the 'medicalization of sin.' All this was part of an intellectual and political movement to improve upon the result of personal and economic choices by aggressively using government power to improve the general welfare."
Piercing through Myths, Lies, and Stupidity, by George Leef, Future of Freedom, Aug 2006
Review of Stossel's Myths, Lies, and Downright Stupidity (2006)
"Politicians love to parade around as great benefactors of the people, but Stossel wants his readers to understand that most politicians are just 'busybodies who want to force their preferences on us.' Exhibit A is the mayor of Friendship Heights, Maryland, who pushed for an ordinance to ban smoking in any public place, even outdoors. When Stossel confronts the health-zealot mayor, he lamely replies, 'Well, we're elected to promote the general welfare and this is part of the general welfare.' The pleasant-sounding term 'the general welfare' is used as cover for lots of petty tyranny like that."
Self-Interest and Social Order in Classical Liberalism: Bernard Mandeville, by George H. Smith, 9 Jan 2015
Discusses interpretations of Mandeville's "private vices", his defense of psychological egoism and the movement to curtail personal vices in England at the turn of the 18th century
"On 20 February 1702, Queen Anne, just one month after ascending the throne, issued A Proclamation for the Encouragement of Piety and Virtue, and for the Preventing and Punishing of Prophaneness and Immorality. ... Here we see one of the most common early arguments for vice laws. Since God (as illustrated in the Bible, especially the Old Testament) inflicts collective vengeance, punishing the many for the sins of the few, rulers must suppress and punish supposedly private vices as a means of protecting society as a whole from the divine wrath of plagues, famines, military defeats, and so forth."
The Egregiously Destructive War on Drugs, by Gennady Stolyarov II, Mises Daily, 30 May 2006
Discusses the adverse effects that the war on drugs has on innocent people who don't consume drugs
"I have no sympathy for drug addicts; I wish to argue the case of the innocent, moral, productive people who have never used such substances in their lives but are nonetheless harmed by the coercive illegalization of drugs. ... Let the drug addicts ruin their own lives; it is their business, not ours. We may object morally to their conduct, but let us persuade — not coerce — them away from their pursuits. If we try coercion, we will only be imposing far greater harms on ourselves."
Related Topics: Children, War on Drugs, Taxation
The Post Office as a Violation of Constitutional Rights, by Wendy McElroy, The Freeman, May 2001
Prompted by the announcement of the U.S. Postal Service eBillPay service (now discontinued), surveys the history of mail service vis-à-vis civil rights, from colonial days to the present
"Often the postal muscle was flexed to control public morality ... the Comstock Act of 1873 had provided a penalty of up to ten years' imprisonment for intentionally mailing obscene material. Ominously, 'obscene' had not been defined. But Anthony Comstock, a moving force behind censorship in late nineteenth-century America, had acquired broad power to interpret the Act named for him. He defined obscenity in such a manner as to include birth-control information and discussion of sexual issues, such as whether forced sex within marriage was rape. Thus the post office exercised tremendous power over freedom of the press and the public expression of sexual morality."


The Food & Drink Police: America's Nannies, Busybodies & Petty Tyrants
    by James T. Bennett, Thomas DiLorenzo, 1998

The introductory paragraph uses material from the Wikipedia article "Prohibitionism" as of 02 Apr 2018, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.